Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The 3M Pocket Projector MPro 120 ,built around a VGA (640 x 480) LCOS chip paired with a sequential red-green-blue LED light source, is meant as both a business projector for data presentations and as a home projector for showing video and photos. Rated at 12 lumens in its high brightness mode, it's noticeably brighter than most pocket projectors, but also a touch larger. The claimed battery life is an impressive 4 hours in normal mode, dropping to 2 hours in high brightness mode. Overall, it's a more than capable all purpose pocket projector, and a great value for street prices under $350.
Small, Light, and Highly Portable. Pocket projectors are small, light, and highly portable by definition. The MPro120 is one of the largest in the category, but still small enough fit comfortably in a shirt pocket at .9- x 2.4- x 4.7 inches. It's also lighter than some, at 5.6 ounces. For those who prefer to carry it in a briefcase or handbag, 3M also includes a thin leatherette pouch to help protect it.
Bright (for a Pocket Projector).The MPro120's brightness rating is 12 lumens in high brightness mode. We measured it at 13 lumens. Although neither may seem like an impressive number, both are high for a pocket projector. Keep in mind that the human eye adjusts to the level of brightness, so that changes in measured brightness aren't the same as changes in percieved brightness. Studies show that the eye is more sensitive to small changes at low levels than higher levels, so that even though 10 lumens is only one-tenth of 100 lumens, the eye sees it as much brighter than one-tenth as bright.
The eye's greater sensitivity to changes in brightness at low levels of light also explains why the MPro120 in its high brightness mode is noticeably brighter than a 10-lumen pocket projector or its own normal mode (which we measured at 10 lumens), even though it's only a 3 lumen difference.
Flexible Power Choices. The MPro120 lets you choose between using its bright mode and getting only a 2 hour battery life on a full battery charge or using the dimmer, so-called normal mode for an impressively long 4 hour battery life. Even 2 hours is longer than some pocket projectors offer, but if you're not in a situation where you can plug in the power cord, doubling the battery life can be well worth losing some brightness, even if it means you have to settle for a smaller image size.
As with most pocket projectors, when the battery dies, you can plug in the power cord and keep using the projector. Unlike some, the MPro120's battery will charge even while the projector is on. Recharge time is about 2 hours with the projector off or 4.5 hours with the projector on.
For those who travel internationally, the set of interchangeable plugs for the power adaptor will be invaluable, with choices that 3M says will work almost anywhere, including the U.S. Canada, Europe, South America, Africa, and most of Asia.
Easy Image Height Adjustment. Adjusting the image height can be an issue for pocket projectors. The MPro120 addresses the problem in two ways. First, a flip up stand built into the projector lets you aim the image higher than the projector level. For more extreme adjustments, 3M also provides a screw-in tripod with 4-inch flexible legs, which makes it easy to both raise the projector higher and tilt it as needed.
Excellent Connectivity. The MPro120 comes with two cables, one for a computer VGA port and one for a composite video source. Each includes a proprietary connector for the projector at one end. The other end of the computer cable includes both a VGA connector and an extension with a stereo miniplug for a computer's audio output. The video cable ends in three male RCA phono plugs for composite video and stereo audio.
Both cables are 3 feet long, which should be enough for using the VGA cable with a laptop. However, if the video source is more than 3 feet from the projector, 3M also supplies three RCA plug gender changers so you can plug the projector cable into one side and a standard composite video and stereo audio cable into the other to reach the video source.
In addition to the two cables that come with the projector, 3M also sells an AV adaptor kit for $23.95 with a component video cable and a cable plus adaptor to connect to iPod, iTouch, and iPhone models.
Tricky to Focus. The projector is a little hard to focus. The focus wheel changes focus quickly with very little movement, making it easy to overshoot the best setting. Focusing gets easier with practice, however.
Low Volume. Even at top volume, the MPro120's sound is easily drowned out by ambient noise, and there's no audio output for a headset. It's arguably loud enough for listening to background music or sound effects in a presentation, or listening to a movie in a quiet room, but in most cases, you'll need to find another way to listen to sound.
Poor Brightness Uniformity. Most pocket projectors have a problem maintaining uniform brightness across the screen. The MPro120 is no exception, at a measured 59%, with the edges noticeably dimmer than the center. The difference is enough to be obvious when projecting a largely empty presentation slide with a solid light color background. However, it isn't obvious for most photos and video clips.
Image Quality Issues. The MPro120's image quality is better than average for a pocket projector in some ways, but worse in others, making it typical for a pocket projector overall. Like most products in this class, it loses detail in shadow areas. But the problem is much less severe on the MPro120 than with most pocket projectors.
On the minus side, colors have a washed out look. There's also a halo of light around the image, which is not unusual with LCOS technology, but it shows only in low light conditions and isn't overly distracting even then.
Also worth mentioning is that the projector uses a sequential red-green-blue LED light source, giving it the same potential to show rainbow artifacts as single-chip DLP projectors. The artifacts, in the form of little red-green-blue rainbows, tend to show when small white objects are surrounded by dark areas -- like white text on a black background or a white shirt collar sticking up from a dark suit jacket in a video. The color breakup comes from eye movement which causes the sequential updating of red, green, and blue to fall on different parts of the retina.
Some people are far more sensitive than others to this issue, so that some never see it, and others see it easily. It's obvious enough with the MPro120 so that if you've ever noticed rainbow artifacts with DLP projectors, you will almost certainly see them with this one as well.
ConclusionThe MPro120's ability to connect to both computers and video sources, combined with its relatively bright image and reasonably long battery life, makes it a good choice for both business and personal use. Bring it on a business trip, and you can connect to your laptop to show presentations during the day and then connect to your iPod to watch movies in your hotel room at night. Take it home or to a friend's house -- or out to a coffee shop for that matter -- and you can show your photos and video clips at large size on any handy wall. Quite simply, it's a strong contender for anyone who needs a highly portable projector with maximum flexibility.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our 3M MPro120 projector page.